Advice to Comelec execs: Be independent

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Unsolicited advice, five pieces of them, has been given by an election lawyer to Andres Bautista, newly appointed chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), as well as other new officials of the poll body.

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Romulo Macalintal, in a recent statement, advised Bautista and the other officials to “[s]tand up and be independent.”

“Never approach any of the senators and/or representatives who are members of the Commission on Appointments [CA] for your confirmation to maintain your independence. Approaching them is a sign of weakness or projects a semblance of an official who would not let go of his position. If the CA wants to confirm you on the basis of your qualifications, so be it. Show that rejecting your nomination is the country’s loss for which CA is to blame,” Macalintal said.

Follow the law, the election lawyer told the Comelec chief and the poll body’s commissioners.

“Implement strictly the spirit of the Party List (PL) Law. Do not allow nominees of a PL group to be related to each other within any degree of consanguinity or affinity to avoid family dynasty in the PL system. PL membership must be proved by a physical count of warm bodies in that a mere claim that it has, say, 100,000 members should not be sufficient,” Macalintal said.

In giving such advice, the lawyer said, “If we revert to manual elections or even [if we insist on]automated polls, the elections in identified election hotspots in Mindanao should be held in advance of the regular elections with the presence of the Comelec chairman and all Comelec commissioners, together with the chiefs of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

In this case, Macalintal pointed out, two types of ballots will be used: one for the local candidates and one for the national candidates [President, Vice President and senators]. Thereafter, count the ballots for the local positions and immediately proclaim the winners. The ballots for the national positions shall be placed in a separate ballot box to be airlifted to Comelec Manila that shall be counted simultaneously with the counting of the ballots cast in the regular polls.

If polls in these areas still result in “failure of elections” despite presence of Comelec officials and PNP and military officials, the election lawyer told Bautista and the commissioners, there shall be no special elections in the meantime, and the President may appoint the officers-in-charge of the areas where failure of elections happened.

The Comelec chief and his men, should “[d]ismiss outright election protests or petitions [that]are clearly baseless without requiring respondents to answer or comment thereon, similar to what the Supreme Court is doing in clearly unmeritorious cases. Your precious time in hearing and deciding these cases could be used in other worthy and urgent election matters and you save the respondents from unnecessary expenses for legal fees.”

Bautista and the Comelec commissioners, according to Macalintal, should take to heart that the people are “entitled to fiscal transparency” where “public funds” are concerned.

“Intelligence and/or discretionary funds should not always have a zero balance annually… A mere ‘certification’ that [such funds were]used for ‘intelligence’ purposes without any proof should not be allowed,” the election lawyer also told Bautista and the other officials.

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